Shar 6: I Don’t Know What I Think Till I See What I Wrote

This writing fiction is not for wimps.

My last two scenes in Act Two are truly lousy. Lani’s screaming about her last scene. Krissie . . . well, the farther in we go, the harder it gets. But I think this book is amazing, and if I can just figure out what I’m trying to say as I’m writing it, it’ll be even better. This is when Bob always said, “Just shoot somebody,” but it’s not that easy. We’ll get it. We’ll hash it all out tomorrow now that we have all the Act Two scenes written, even if they do have problems. And then once we put them together in a single act file, we’ll really see where we need to work.

Just in time for Act Three.

In other news, we’re writing about cookies constantly and all three of us are dying for some but none of us have time to bake. I did buy all the ingredients but so far it’s been keyboard 24/7. And I figured out that Milton’s always sitting on the keyboard because he’s trying to dominate it. Dogs climb on top of people and animals they’re trying to dominate and the keyboard is warm and I spend all my time with it, so . . . Also, tonight Milton ate a hole in the duvet. And it’s a nice duvet, too.

But by god, we got Act Two done.

Shar 5: Finding Shar and Milton

We got hit by snow and ice last night and today, but since it’ll be in the forties by Wednesday, and I’ve got plenty of food and heat, it’s not a problem. Watching Oklahoma and the other states get hit so badly puts it all into perspective. I probably can’t get out of my driveway, but I don’t need to, either. But wherever we put Clitoris, there’s going to be sun and no snow. Seasons, yes, snow and ice, no. What’s it like in North Carolina? That seems like a good compromise. We were talking about Oregon and Washington, but I need sun; these grim winter month knock me out.

On the other hand, snowed it with dogs and a SAD light makes it bearable, plus I had a lot of work to do today. Krissie was working all day since she got her computer back, and Lani took the day off since her Act 2 scenes are done and her kids were home, so there was nobody in Campfire to talk to. Very sad. So I started at the beginning of Act 1 in an effort to find Shar. I’ve been writing her off the top of my head, trying to get to know her, and I just wasn’t getting her on the page. But with all by one of my Act Two scenes done, it was time to figure her out. So I spent a lot of today just thinking about Shar, figuring out where she’s been and what she wants and how the things that are happening to her are going to change her. And then I got Act One out again and tweaked all the scenes with what I’d figured out.

Then I let the dogs out into the cold, icy night, figuring they’d be back in record time. I left the door open because it was so cold and went to check in a storeroom for something, and when I came back,there were Wolfie and Veronica at the top of the stairs, finished with the cold. No Milton. I stuck my head out the back and yelled, “Milton!” and didn’t hear anything, so I shut the door, figuring he’d gone upstairs with them. Nope. No Milton. So I put my boots on, saying bad things about a puppy, and got a flashlight and went out to find him.

He was digging a hole. To China evidently since he’d gotten pretty far on it. I picked him up and said, “Moron puppy,” and carried him. We are definitely going to work on the “come here!” command as soon as I get a break from this book.

Then I went back and Lani had sent a description of Daisy’s mother that was terrific, so I did one for Shar’s mother, and then I went through the scenes in Act Two, tweaking them, instead of my last scene in Act Two. Next we’re meeting in Campfire to talk about Act Two and look at each other’s revisions, but I think Act One is really close to finished, and Act Two will be a snap to revise, too. Then Act Three and Four are the short acts and I’m thinking we’ll have that first draft done by the first of the year. I know I keep saying this, but I can’t believe how fast this is going. And it’s good stuff.

So the good news for today is, I found Shar and Milton. Who could ask for anything more?

Shar 4: What Not To Wear in Mesopotamia

Today I looked at Lani’s last scene for this act and realized I’d wandered off from my research and not told her what Kami would be wearing. So I spent some hours on the net and figured it out. (I also took out the trash and made lunch and played with the dogs in the yard, but that’s not interesting.) At least I have enough to go back in and say, “Okay, she’s wearing a long floor-length cloth, probably embroidered, wrapped across her breasts and then crossed behind her back with the ends draped over her shoulders.” Later on, I will go get something out of my fabric stash and try this. I have a feeling that, with a couple of pins, this could work as a general laying around the house wrap. Or not.

Then I went back and looked at the elide and thought, “Oh, hell,” and added some things and cut some things.

Then I tried to figure out what the hell Shar’s story was by summarizing how she changes in each scene to make her act arc. In the first act, she changes from somebody who’s given up to somebody who’s a goddess; in the second act she changes from being unsure of using her powers because she knows there’s going to be a cost to being sure she has to use them to stop the antagonist. Now I have to figure out her arcs in Three and Four and then I think I’ll be able to write the last scene in Act Two, which is very cool because we set Monday as our goal for getting that done. And I’ll have plenty of time to work this weekend because we’re getting snow and ice tomorrow. Should be all thawed out by Wednesday or Thursday, though.

And I also caught up with Krissie in Campfire when she got home and then watched Project Runway because I had it Tivoed and needed to give my brain a break. So I didn’t get a scene written today, but I have a feeling that the work I did will make the scene i write tomorrow make so much more sense. And I did a four page Bible for Kammani, with photos, and uploaded it to Campfire so that Krissie and Lani know what she’s doing and what she’s thinking, which they will slice and dice tomorrow.

I can’t believe how much faster I write when I collaborate.

Shar 3: Beating Out A Scene

Lani’s cleaning house today, Krissie’s pedal to the metal on a borrowed computer she hates, and I’m grocery shopping and trying to figure out my last scene in this act.

I am getting a lot done, I think, but it’s because it’s a collaboration. If I get stuck, I go in to Campfire and yell, “Help!” (because if I yell “Fire” nobody comes), and Lani or Krissie or both log on and we talk it out. Plus I owe these women. If I zone out in a panic attack, they can’t move forward. Collaborating really speeds up my process.

But now I have an elide and a scene to write to finish out this act, and it’s not the big finish, Daisy gets that one, and it has to do several things:

It has to complete Shar’s arc of getting to know and getting comfortable with her powers.

It has to foreshadow the end of Act Three because I wrote a piece of scene that does that and we rearranged the book so that it works better that way.

It has to arc the romance, which right now is sprained because she won’t sleep with him and while she has some good reasons, the guy’s a god and he wants her and he’s a sweetheart to boot. I’m not contriving the conflict, I really think she wouldn’t, but I haven’t got it on the page yet.

It has to be about painting a mural and naming a coffee house.

It has to get in some back story that’s Lani’s been sniping at me for. (I hate back story.)

And about forty other things I don’t remember.

But first, I went to the grocery and got stuff to make cookies. For the book. No, really. Then I came home and Campfired with Krissie for awhile with the dogs curled up on the bed. I bought them chew toys at the grocery, but Milton ate a Dick Blick catalog instead. And then I tried to block out the beats for tomorrow’s scene.

So what are beats? They’re units of conflict within a scene, scenettes, if you like.

In the scene I wrote yesterday, the first beat is Shar walking home with Sam, arguing with him.

Then something happens, a mini turning point, and they have to deal with a problem, and she’d have to be a heartless bitch not to stop arguing and help, so the second beat is them working together and him doing everything right, even though she’s still angry with him. This second beat has higher stakes because she still has good reason to be leery of him, but he’s really admirable. So now she’s torn.

Then something happens, another turning point, and the stakes in the scene get higher for her, she’s more tempted to relent, and she acts to escape, which deepens her knowledge of Sam and makes things more difficult for her.

When that beat breaks, she moves away, trying to solve her problem, and her solution actually leads to an even more intimate connection that ends when she finally walks away, terrified, but changed from who she was at the beginning of the scene, in conjunction with the way their relationship has changed.

I need to go back and make sure that both Shar and the relationship arc through those four beats. Also Sam, also Wolfie, and Shar’s use of her powers. Each one of those beats has a microscopic shift in it for all five of those story aspects. And they all have to be well-motivated.

But I’ll do that in the rewrite, not in the first draft.

So I have beats for tomorrow’s scene sketched in: Shar painting the mural and arguing with Daisy, Shar using her powers to help Abby and pointing out the problem with that to Daisy, and then the break-in which is not Shar vs. Daisy, but I can figure that out–but what I really worked on tonight was the elide. It’s shorter but trickier than a scene, and mine is actually way too long, but I’m going to leave it like that until I get the whole act done–tomorrow!–in rough and I can see where I’m repeating and what the reader doesn’t need to know. I love writing this fast, it keeps it so fresh, but I think it only works in collaborations. I can do 40,000 words this way, but I don’t think I can do 100.

2020 Note: Try “segue” for “elide.” It’s really a slide/transition kind of thing. Anyway, don’t get hung up on it. I babble.

Shar 2: Aimless E-mails and Eggless Muffins

Well, I meant to get a lot done today. And I did, reading Lani’s and Krissie’s scenes and adding comments and doing some minor revisions on my scenes. And writing the rough of that Shar vs. Sam scene and that wasn’t easy. But mostly this day has been one of those weird jerky ones where I’d get so far and then turn right.

I got the rest of the hardware cloth on the deck and cleared off some of the stuff that didn’t belong there.

I made whole wheat muffins and then noticed as I was taking them out of the oven that the egg the mix called for was still sitting there. Plus they were whole wheat so, as Lani pointed out, I deserved what I got. I told her they were so vile nobody would eat them. She said, “Try Milton.” Milton ate a piece.

I caught up all the blog moderations and checked the comments for wingnuts (not you).

I discussed beats in Lani’s scene with Lani, we tried to figure out what the ceremony of a goddess welcoming her priestesses would be like, Lani and Krissie and I tried to figure out together what our characters would do when they got the good news they were demi-goddesses (Daisy asks, “Do you get dental with that?”), and we discussed what typeface the dogs should talk in . . . full day.

And in and around that I talked with my agent and with my brother and answered e-mails, even the ones from Bob saying that aliens use amusement parks as a cover and that all water rides have alligators. He also quizzed me on who the first vice president was. I think he was bored.

But I got that damn scene done. First draft rough, but by god it’s done.

And I threw out the muffins.

The Twelve Days of Shar

So I have insomnia. I have to be up by noon, which wouldn’t be a problem except it’s 7AM. But I can’t sleep because Dogs and Goddesses is running through my head like Milton through the house with a tuna fish package. (Don’t ask.) We’re pedal to the metal this week on Act Two, and that’s where everything kicks into gear. It’s interesting writing with Lani and Krissie because we have such different processes that you’d think we’d clash, but we give each other such freedom that it loosens us all up, I think. I’m the one who’s the drag on the process because I rewrite incessantly, but they’re patient and I’m grateful.

So Act Two is where I have to put Shar and Sam in motion, and as usual, there’s too much talking in my scenes, I’m forgetting to arc the character, forgetting pretty much everything I know, so these nights when I have insomnia are really good because my mind races and I can think things through and all kinds of stuff shows up. I have five scenes to write for Act Two: one of them on its third draft and the rest are roughed in. So I decided to do the Twelve Days of Shar here, even though we’re blogging the book on D&G because that would be hogging D&G. And because this is going to be the fastest I’ve ever done a book–we’ve decided to crash on through since we’ve done so much prewriting and brainstorming–so for once the Twelve Day Plan should work.

Fingers crossed anyway.

Annie

So with four dogs and one cat, you’d think the cat would be in trouble, but if you think that, you don’t know cats. Or Annie.

Annie was a rescue from the mean streets of Dayton, so even as a kitten, she had street cred. Then she lived for a good chunk of her younger years in German Village in Columbus which, while not exactly Beirut, had its share of rats and raccoons, neither of which ventured into our yard more than once. And then, of course, we moved to the country where she had nine acres of wildlife to quell. She’s a tough old broad, which is probably why we get along so well. Annie’s been in one book–she was the model for Elvis in Bet Me–but that was before I began Argh, so I’ve never really blogged about her. And now, due to popular demand, here’s Annie:

Annie

Annie and Lucy get along great. Annie and Wolfie have issues they worked out. If you read Faking It, you may remember Steve’s approach to cats. This was also Wolfie’s approach to Annie, and then she’d swat him good, and they’d curl up together and go to sleep. Now, they just exist together. Well, you know family, there are always problems but you stick anyway.

Annie&Wolfie

Milton is taking longer to absorb the “cat is family” idea, but they’re doing better. They can sit on the bed together now. Well, Milton sits on the laptop, but the proximity is the same.

M&A

Which is not to imply that Annie has any respect for him.

M&A2

Meanwhile, Lucy and Veronica lounge:

Lucy&V

It’s a peaceable kingdom.

M&A3

As long as Milton is asleep and everybody recognizes that Annie is not to be trifled with.

Pink Goes Home

There was a post in moderation Thursday night when I checked this blog, from someone who said, “Please contact me about Pink, there’s an urgent health issue.” I freaked of course and then I googled for the e-mail and found out it was from the woman who had bought Veronica from a breeder in North Carolina. Which meant it had to be Pink’s owner, too, and I knew health issues had forced her to give up the dogs, so I e-mailed and said, “What’s wrong with Pink?” Turns out, nothing, Pink is as healthy as a horse; both Pink and Veronica had clearly been well taken care of (unlike poor Milton who had to be nursed back to health and socialized by Kathleen at Dachshund Rescue). What was wrong? Pink had been her kids’ dog, and she’d given her away with Veronica and the kids were distraught. She wanted Pink back. After that it got complicated because I didn’t like the idea of Pink being in a revolving door, and because I’d signed a paper promising not to give the dog away to anybody but Dachshund Rescue (which shows you how much Dachshund Rescue watches out for the dogs it takes into its care) and because I thought she’d been forced to give up Pink so how could she take her back?, so there were many phone calls and much discussion but in the end, for me, it was about Pink. Veronica settled in here fine, but Pink just wanted to go home. She’d curl up with me at night, but she just was not happy. And at six, she’d been with the family a lot longer than Veronica, so I had figured it would take her longer to fit in, but then the woman called and her kids wanted the dog back and . . .

I gave Pink back. I’m still not sure it was the right thing to do, but it was the best solution I could think of.

After I handed Pink over, I came home and ate an entire pint of Dove ice cream. Then I passed out from sugar shock with the four dogs draped over me. When I woke up, Milton had eaten the ice cream carton. So we’re all fine. Veronica seems more settled now; I was afraid she’d miss Pink but she wrestles with Milton and curls up with Wolfie to sleep and she’s getting gutsier every day. In fact, all the dogs seem more settled. I think maybe Pink’s tension was getting to all of them. Annie has even returned to sacking out on the bed, although Milton still has issues. So I’m sure it was the right thing to do. Kind of.

Argh. I can’t even adopt dogs without drama.

But here’s Pink, right before I took her back to her family:

Pink Profile

Really, it was the right thing to do.

Milton

Milton ate all the buttons off my duvet cover.

Milton

At least, I’m pretty sure it was Milton. It might have been Veronica who was the one I found inside the duvet cover, but it’s so much more likely that she waited until someone else did it for her that my money is still on Milton. Milton is living proof that being brainless makes you happy. I’m sure someday he’ll grow up and be very smart, but at the moment, Milton has no fear and no boundaries, which pretty much makes the world his oyster, which he would eat, along with the edge of my post-it flip chart, the pizza I had on the nightstand, my antique wicker side table, and those duvet cover buttons. Milton also chases the cat after being told many times not to, leaps from everything he stands on including the floor, and runs through leaves that are bigger than he is with wild abandon. I need to be more like Milton: the only way through it is to do it, so you might as well enjoy the ride.

On the other hand, a little self-control is a good thing. He sat on my laptop and did something that froze it. He managed to climb up on my sideboard and then tried to jump off (I caught him). And he continually gets himself lost under the duvet. One thing about having four of one breed, you really notice their quirks. I knew that Wolfie was a burrower like most dachshunds because they were bred to go down badger holes, so squirming into dark places under things is the best thing ever for them, but I didn’t realize what I’d gotten into until I had four of them crawling under the covers. Lucy the beagle mix just looks at them, rolls her eyes, and goes back to sleep.

In the afternoon, when the sun’s out, they each pursue their own interests:

Milt & Others

That’s Veronica languishing, Pink looking for somebody to beat up, Lucy pretending she doesn’t know them, and Milton making his move on my laptop in the foreground. He’s a happy dog.

Thank God I’m out of duvet buttons.